news posts

Curb Appeal

Create an Instant Butterfly Garden

Grab the garden gloves! Today, we’re creating a not-so-secret garden that continuously attracts beautiful butterflies and their whimsical friends. The best news is, you can create a butterfly garden on a small budget with just a few good plants – which means you can have fun growing your garden by collecting plants little by little if the need be.

D&CO. PRO TIP: Buy in threes. Three always seems to be the magic number for how many plants to buy, especially when starting out. Grouping three of the same plants together (planting a few feet apart for growth) usually makes the best visual, and also makes it easy for butterflies to find.

Most of the plants that attract butterflies love the Florida sunshine, therefore a great area for a butterfly garden is one that has at least part sun – check plant labels or with an associate for specific plant care and warnings*. Butterfly plants are usually simple looking, with lots of green leaves and small flower accents. A butterfly garden should grow a little more wild than be perfectly trimmed and shaped all the time, if you want the plants to attract the most winged visitors. (Too frequent trimming gets rid of flowers and buds, which are what attracts the butterflies.) Approach your butterfly garden design more like you are building a theme park for butterflies, than creating a traditional tightly manicured garden.

Common Butterfly Attractors:


Monarch Caterpillar eating Milkweed leaves

Milkweed
The easiest way to get butterflies to show up in your yard is to plant some Milkweed. Milkweed is a host plant for Monarch butterflies and comes in a few varieties. We like the type pictured here best. It’s labeled a “host plant” because Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the plant so caterpillars have something to eat when they hatch. The caterpillars will eat this plant down to a nub. Don’t worry, the plant continuously leafs out and grows back again. We suggest planting it behind or among other plants so that you don’t notice as much when the caterpillars eat it all – and they will absolutely eat it ALL! Note: Milkweed is toxic to nearly everything but the Monarch caterpillar, so keep it away from curious children and animals. 


Penta flowers with butterfly

Pentas
These tiny star flowers come in a variety of colors and attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, honey bees, bumble bees… all of the little creatures that make a garden magical. Note: Some varieties are long and leggy, some are neat and shrub-like. Be sure to check labels or ask an associate about the type of penta you are purchasing, so that you know what space is best for planting it.


Yellow Shrimp Plant

Shrimp Plants
Shrimp plants have flowers that kind of look like little shrimps from a distance. It’s a butterfly favorite in any color. Note: Hummingbirds LOVE this plant too. In our yard, they seem to gravitate to the red variety. 

 

 


Plumbago with lots of flowers!

Plumbago
This one is a large loose bush that butterflies and hummingbirds love. You want to keep it a little wild so that the flowers are always plentiful and present – it’s what the butterflies are attracted to and feeding on. 

 

Plumbago

By adding all or any of these four simple butterfly attractors, your garden is sure to be a hit with all kinds of butterflies.  

Share your butterfly gardens with @DeAnnaAndCompany by using the hashtag #GrowWithDandCO

* Keep in mind: some plants can be toxic to animals and humans. Be sure to check labels and with a knowledgable plant associate for information. Additionally, it’s a good rule of thumb to always wear gloves and eye protection while gardening, and to thoroughly wash hands/shower after.

Home Hack

3 Easy Ways to WOW Home Buyers!

If you are selling your home, there are three easy things you can do to WOW your potential buyers:

Remove Personalization, Declutter, and Clean

There is a difference between decluttering and cleaning, we’ll explain that below – but let’s start with removing personalization.

1. Remove Personalization. This is an easy one. Start the packing process immediately with items that are personal to you. Meaning, if it’s something that is “so you,” pack it up. This means pictures of you, your friends, your family, your feelings, your favorites… pack it all up. Packing things now that you don’t need everyday will not only help you in the long run, but also help your home to look its best for buyers at the same time. You want to do everything you can to allow a buyer to picture themselves living there. Transforming your home into a more generic space allows the majority of buyers to see the potential your home offers, and allows them to imagine how they will decorate and customize it. If you’re having trouble with this step, just imagine the things you would remove or store to make your home a vacation rental. Here’s a general checklist of personal things to pack up and/or securely store:

  • Photos and Art: Anything depicting friends, family, pets, degrees, favorite sports teams, political themes, religious themes, awards, names, initials, etc.
  • Signs and Banners
  • Collections and Knick Knacks
  • Hobbies and Supplies

D&CO. TIP: If you are having in-person showings and open houses, strangers will be in your home. Don’t forget to securely store personal items like medication, mail, personal papers, jewelry, and other valuables. 

2. Declutter. Clutter is something we all become immune to over time. Piles of mail or magazines, everyday conveniences like snacks or water bottles on kitchen counters – it may be everyday living to you, but all of these items are clutter in the buyer’s eye. Clutter makes it harder for buyers to imagine themselves living in the space. It literally “clutters” their view. Pack it up, neatly store it, or toss it. Here are some clutter culprits:

  • Piles of mail or magazines
  • Stacked items on counters; snacks, bottles, dishes, spices, books, mail, newspapers, etc.
  • Shopping Bags
  • Mail Packages
  • SHOES and Clothes
  • Collectibles
  • Office and Craft Supplies

3. CLEAN. We’re talking deep clean. Windows make a big impact. Sparkling windows make for great looking photos and beautiful views of the vistas for those in-person showings. Here are other overlooked items to consider for deep cleaning – they all make a big impact to the feel of your home:

  • Windows
  • Floor Boards
  • Doors and Cabinets
  • Back Splashes and Appliances – look for splashes and hand prints
  • Door Knobs and Hardware – look for the hand prints
  • Tile Grout Lines
  • Mirrors, Toilets, Showers
  • Corners – along wall edges, where the carpet/floor meets the wall is a dust magnet!
  • High Traffic Floors, Doors, and Walls – paint touch ups and cleaning where needed

Removing personalization, decluttering, and deep cleaning can instantly improve your home’s image – all it takes is some time and elbow grease.

Recipes

Pub-Style Shepherd’s Pie (Hello Fresh)

We have been relying on (and LOVING) our Hello Fresh subscription for fun and delicious meals safe at home during the pandemic. The Pub-Style Shepherd’s Pie was one of our many favorite meal kits from them.

 

Since Hello Fresh sends us the exact portions to make each dish, the recipe here is more of a “little-of-this, a little-of-that” approach.

Note: *This is not an ad, we really have a Hello Fresh subscription and we really enjoy this recipe!

 

Ingredients:
Mashed Potatoes (5 to 6 Yukon Gold or 2 to 3 Russet)
Sour Cream – about 2 tablespoons (for making the mashed potatoes)
Carrots – 2 to 3
Onion – 1
Celery – 3 stalks
Ground Beef – 1 pound – OR make it plant-based with Impossible Burger instead, same directions.
Tomato Paste – 1.5 ounces
Flour – 1 tablespoon
Beef Stock – 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup
White Cheddar Cheese – 1/2 cup
Garlic Powder – 1 teaspoon
Fresh Thyme – 1 teaspoon for mashed potatoes, 2 teaspoons for meat mixture
Vegetable Oil
Butter – 1 to 2 tablespoons
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:

Wash and dry all produce

  • Finely chop onion and celery. Peel, then slice carrots length wise and chop into 1/4″ half moons. Strip thyme leaves from stems and roughly chop leaves. Cut potatoes into 1/2″ cubes.

Next, make mashed potatoes and vegetables separately but simultaneously.

  • Mashed Potatoes: Place potatoes in large pot and cover with cold water (2″ of water above potatoes), add a little salt. Bring to boil and cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain. Return potatoes to original pot. Mash potatoes with sour cream, butter, and about 1 tsp of fresh thyme. Add splash of water as needed to loosen.
  • Vegetables: Drizzle oil in large pan, (use an oven safe pan if you’d like to make  the pie assembly easier). Cook carrots in a little salt and pepper for 3-5 minutes until slightly softened. Add celery, onion, and a large drizzle of oil. Cook 5-7 minutes until tender. Add splashes of water to keep veggies from browning. When veggies are fully cooked, add garlic powder, and 2 tsp of fresh thyme and cook for 30 seconds.

Add ground beef to vegetables, and season with a little salt and pepper. Break meat apart while cooking. Cook until meat is browned and thoroughly cooked.

  • Add 1 tablespoon of flour and 1.5 ounces of tomato paste to ground beef and vegetables and cook until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.
  • Gradually add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of beef stock to ground beef and vegetables. Bring to a boil and cook until mixture is very thick, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If using oven safe pan: top ground beef/veggie mixture with even layer of mashed potatoes, leaving a gap around the pan edge. Sprinkle with shredded white cheddar cheese. BROIL about 3 minutes until browned. CAREFULLY WATCH it to avoid burning.

If using a baking dish: If you don’t have an oven safe pan, assemble pie in baking dish. Ground beef with veggies in the bottom. Top with even layer of mashed potatoes, leaving a gap around the pan edge. Sprinkle with shredded white cheddar cheese. BROIL about 3 minutes until browned. CAREFULLY WATCH it to avoid burning.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK‘S DAY!

 

 

Curb Appeal

Pool Solar Panels – is it worth it?

Living in Florida, we have the ability to heat our pools with the sun using pool solar panels. But is it worth the investment?

In our opinion, yes. If the goal is to regulate a pool’s in-season temperature in an energy-efficient, cost-effective way, then solar panels are a great way to accomplish that goal. Read more to see if solar pool panels are right for your needs.

Solar Pool Panels Perks List:

  • Low energy
  • No giant propane tanks like with gas heaters
  • No reoccurring propane costs because the SUN is the heat source
  • Most economical way to keep a pool at a consistent temperature
  • Lasts 10+ years

How it works:

A solar panel heating system takes water from your pool filtration system and sends it up to your roof to be heated by the sun, moving the water through a series of small tubes in the “solar panels” before returning the newly heated water to the pool. The system has sensors that regulate and keep the pool at the set temperature, automatically adding the solar-heated water as needed to maintain temps. Here in Central Florida, it’s best used “in-season,” late spring through mid fall. You can still warm a pool in the colder months, BUT using it when it’s consistently cold can cause you more general pool maintenance issues. (Likely due to the temperature changes between day and night evaporating the pool water at a higher rate.) Keep in mind that in the winter months shorter days providing less sunlight means less heating capabilities.

What panels are best for:

Solar panels can typically heat your pool up to 10 degrees above it’s current stand-alone temperature.

A solar panel heating system simply does not have the environmental resources to heat a 40 degree pool up to a consistent 80 degrees in the winter. We only rely on our system for the warmer season when the outside day temperatures are more consistent with the night temps. While solar panels can technically work all year mechanically, winter will have less sun (shorter days), which means a lot less opportunity to warm the colder pool water with the solar panels. There’s also a lot more water evaporation if the temperature of the pool is warmer than the air on the colder nights.

How long do they last:

Be sure to ask your provider. Lots of systems are guaranteed for around 10 years. The roof components of a system is typically changed out with a new roof installation, but the mechanics of the system (the power, piping, and controls mounted on the side of the house) can last even longer. Expect a few minor fixes needed along the way, usually due to freezing temperatures in the winter. Fixes should only have labor costs when panels are under warranty.

How much do they cost:

Prices vary but typically around $3,000 to $5,000. Cost usually depends on things like how many panels your pool will need, and the additional materials and labor needed to install your system.

How to choose a solar panel provider:

Make sure they are a licensed, insured contractor. Look for real-world reviews and compare companies. Ask neighbors with pools if they have solar heaters, who they hired, and how their solar panels have worked for them. Warranty is important, so make sure you are getting a quality product that is guaranteed.

Do you have solar panels for your pool? Share your experience with others in the comments section of our Instagram pics for this Curb Appeal article: @DeAnnaAndCompany

Home Hack

Oh So Pretty Pantry!

This month we are sharing our finds to help organize the kitchen pantry. From cans, to dry goods, pastas to cereals… even your avalanches of spice jars – we’ve hopped over to Amazon and found a little something to arrange it all.

MEET THE ORGANIZERS:

CLEAR BINS

Clear bins allow us to see things at a glance. Containers with higher walls also seem more versatile than the shorter walls, but you will have to assess your particular needs. Clear bins are great for: bags or small boxes of sides, snacks, packs of things like oatmeal, granola bars, individual chip bags, bagged soups, beverages in boxes or packs, etc.

AIR-TIGHT CONTAINERS

Air tight containers are great for: pastas, cereals, dry beans, rice, candies, flours, sugars, etc.

RACKS

Storing things like soda and soup cans are so much more efficient on racks. We like the racks like the picture above; single row units where the cans slide forward as you use them, so that you can easily cycle through the cans. Make it easy to find what you’re looking for by dedicating one rack (or row) to one type of can: canned soups – OR – canned vegetables OR canned fruits OR canned beverages, etc. Canned goods are heavy, be sure to distribute the weight of these items by placing them at the strongest points on your shelves. We do not recommend stacking units or having all the cans on one shelf. (See arranging ideas below) Can racks are great for: REGULAR sized canned vegetables, soups, fruits, and beverages.

SPICE RISERS

Spices can overwhelm a cabinet, but these little risers really help to keep things nice and neat. Keep your most used spices on the bottom step of the riser, with the least used spices stored on the top. Spice risers are great for: standard and short spice bottles.

BASKETS

For the other odds and ends. Baskets are great for: potatoes, onions, dedicated snack bins for individuals (add a cute name tag), food storage items like bags and foils, etc.

Where to start?

REMOVE IT ALL! Sounds daunting, but it was actually kind of fun and refreshing once you get going. Fully wipe down the shelves. Sort out the expired goods. Play some good music to keep your momentum.

TOSS:

Expired items? Toss them. If it’s had time to expire, you don’t use it anyway.

BUNCH of cereals? Do a taste test, they’re likely stale. Time to toss!

COMBINE:

Several opened bags or boxes of the same items? Combine them. Think: flours, pastas, sugars, dry beans, rice, snacks, spices, etc.

Note: Don’t make multi-ingredient confetti. Only combine like things. Example; several open boxes of spaghetti noodles? Combine them. But DON’T combine, say an open bag of bowtie pasta with penne pasta, and spaghetti noodles just to save space. If you don’t cook it or eat it together, don’t combine it together.

Now the fun part:

MAKE YOUR OWN LITTLE STORE!

Arrange goods like your own little store! Keep the things you use most often at eye level. Things you use least often on the harder to reach shelves.

Canned goods: organize them by type. Soups, Vegetables, Fruits, Meats, Drinks.

Arranging the goods: consider organizing every shelf by a theme. Since we all don’t have giant pantry rooms at our disposal (like the celebrities on these organizing shows do), we have created this simple 4-shelf outline to start your realistic pretty pantry endeavors. Swap the shelve order for how (or who) uses the items on it most often. The most accessed items/shelves should be easiest to reach.

CEREALS and BREAKFAST – top shelf:

Start with the sweet cereals on one end, move to the healthier options in the middle, then things like oatmeals, granola bars and breakfast alternatives, then nut butters, jam, and syrups on the other end.

SNACKS and SWEETS – mid shelf:

Start with canned fruit (can rack), then boxed cookies, move to boxed crackers, chip bags, dips, then dried fruits and nuts. This is also a good shelf for canned beverages (can rack).

PASTA and BEANS – mid shelf:

Start with your canned vegetables (can rack), then canned meats (think tuna, chicken, etc.), sides in packages or boxes, pastas, then dry beans/rice, jar goods (olives,pickles, etc.), condiments

BAKING and BLUE MOON – bottom shelf:

Start with sugars and flours, then oils and other baking essentials/decorations (spice riser/ clear bins). Next, boxed mixes, your rarely-used “in a blue moon” goods, then spices (spice riser), and end with canned soups (can rack).

Are you proud of your pretty pantry? Share your tips and pics with us on Instagram! Use the hashtag: #DandCOPrettyPantry

Recipes

Valentine Treat Mix

This original Betty Crocker recipe is a go-to for our Valentine’s Day treat bags!

Ingredients

  • 4.5 cups Chex cereal
  • 1/2 cup vanilla chips
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup pink/red/white candy-coated chocolate candies
  • 2 tablespoons pink/red sprinkles

 

Directions

  • Place cereal in large mixing bowl, set aside.
  • In microwavable bowl, place vanilla chips, peanut butter, and regular butter. Set microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds. Stop the microwave every 30 seconds to stir the mixture until just melted. (May not take the whole 1:30 depending on your microwave.)
  • Pour melted mixture over cereal and gently mix until coated.
  • In a gallon zipper food storage bag, place 1/2 of the cereal mix. Add powdered sugar, close and shake bag until cereal is fully coated. Empty mix onto wax paper or aluminum foil and spread it out to cool, about 15 minutes.
  • With the remaining cereal mix in the bowl, gently stir in candies and sprinkles. Spread out on aluminum foil or wax paper to cool, about 15 minutes.
  • In large mixing bowl, gently combine both cereal mixes.
  • Place about 1 cup of mix into plain sandwich twist tie bags or decorative food-grade cellophane bags.

Make it a Valentine! Use pink, red, and white curling ribbon to cinch the tops of bags closed. Add a themed tag if you want to get even fancier!

HAPPY VALENTINE‘S DAY!

Curb Appeal

How to Choose a Pressure Washer in Three Steps

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the clean lines from pressure washing a dirty driveway. However, choosing a pressure washer that actually works for your needs is kind of hard and confusing. To make the decision simpler, we’ve compiled our best info, tips for comparing units, and also suggest a miracle item that will help you clean your walk ways in half the time no matter which washer you choose!

Pressure washers are serious equipment, so you should take the same precautions using them as you would using power tools and saws. Always follow the proper steps for powering and maintaining your washer. If there ever was a manual to read, it would be this one. Always wear appropriate clothing, eye protection, and strong close-toed shoes (no flip flops!) when operating a pressure washer.

Pressure washers are pricey, so make sure you are getting the one that will meet your expectations. Here are THREE things you should pay attention to:

Strength, Water, Power

Strength = the PSI number (Pounds per Square Inch) how strong the stream will be = how deep you can clean. The higher the number the stronger the stream/cleaning capabilities. 3000-4000 PSI is more than sufficient for most home owners.

Water = GPM (Gallons Per Minute) How much water will flow = how fast you can clean. Think: garden hose vs fire hose

Power = type of motor (Gas vs Electric) Pressure washing things like sidewalks and deck tops requires a lot more power than things like cars or boat washing. 

How to compare units?

An easy way to compare machines to see which unit cleans more efficiently is to multiply each unit’s PSI number by the GPM number. (PSIxGPM) The one with the highest number should clean best.

Example:
WASHER A: 1400 PSI x 1.6 GPM =2240

vs

WASHER B: 1400 PSI x 2.4 GPM =3360

vs

WASHER C: 3300 PSI x 1.6 GPM =5280

In this example, WASHER C (with the highest = number) is the more efficient unit. “Efficient” meaning it will clean an area faster in less time than the others.

Electric-Powered Pressure Washers

Amazon

There are a lot of great entry-level electric units out there. We found that anything below 1800 psi didn’t clean much on driveways or sidewalks. However, we started with an electric unit, 1400 PSI/1.6GPM and it cleaned cement, decking, and pvc lawn chairs really well – but it did take a whole day.

The good: smaller units, lighter weight.

The bad: Doesn’t get deep stains as well, takes longer to deep clean areas. There are lots of cords to wrangle – the electric cord, the wand (sprayer) hose, and the garden hose.

Gas-Powered Pressure Washers

Amazon

These are the real deal. If you were to hire a company to pressure wash your driveway, they are going to show up with something gas-powered. We recently graduated to a gas-powered washer with 3300 psi and 2.4 GPM. It cleaned like a breeze.

The good: A lot more powerful. Cleans stubborn stains with ease. More maneuverable: not having a power cord to worry about allows for cleaning an area as long as your garden hose.

The bad: Louder. More powerful streams are more dangerous. You could easily blast through an old window pane, loose cement, or brittle lawn chairs. Be sure to take appropriate precautions and read the manual.

This magical attachment saved us SO much time. The space that usually took us 6 to 8 hours to pressure wash, was done in 60 minutes with this type of “surface cleaner.”

Disc attachments like these surface cleaners found on Amazon, are great for wide passes (not detail work) – which makes it awesome for cleaning large areas quicker. It also eliminates all those hidden-ink-like squiggle lines that often appear when the cement dries from using the wand alone. IMPORTANT: Make sure to buy the right disc attachment for your unit by verifying the psi compatibility on both.

Happy cleaning!

Home Hack

When is the Right Time to Refinance?

Maybe you’ve heard someone declare “Mortgage rates are at an all-time low!” It’s been a fairly common refrain in the last few years as federal interest rates have fallen.

When mortgage rates are low, it’s a good time to get a first-time mortgage or to refinance a mortgage that you already have. If you think refinancing can save you money on your mortgage, then NOW might be the perfect time to look into it.

Mortgage rates are currently at record-breaking lows due, in major part, to the extremely low Federal Reserve rate. The fed rate was dropped to near 0% in recent months in response to the economic hit from coronavirus.

There are many reasons why homeowners refinance:

  • To obtain a lower interest rate
  • To shorten the term of their mortgage
  • To eliminate previously required mortgage insurance costs
  • To convert from an Adjustable Rate Mortgage(ARM) to a fixed-rate mortgage, or vice versa
  • To tap into home equity to raise funds to deal with a financial emergency, finance a large purchase, or consolidate debt

One of the best reasons to refinance is to lower the interest rate on your existing loan.

Historically, the rule of thumb is that refinancing is a good idea if you can reduce your interest rate by at least 2%. However, many lenders say 1% savings is enough of an incentive to refinance.

When interest rates fall, homeowners sometimes have the opportunity to refinance an existing loan for another loan that, without much change in the monthly payment, has a significantly shorter term.

Homeowners often access the equity in their homes to cover major expenses, such as the costs of home remodeling or a child’s college education. These homeowners may justify the refinancing by the fact that remodeling adds value to the home or that the interest rate on the mortgage loan is less than the rate on money borrowed from another source.

If you could save several hundred dollars a month, or have your home paid off in half the time, would you want to? Refinancing might offer you just that kind of savings.

Since refinancing can cost between 2% and 5% of a loan’s principal and—as with an original mortgage—requires an appraisal, title search, and application fees, it’s important for a homeowner to determine whether refinancing is a wise financial decision.

Call us to discuss your specific situation.

Contact Us